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Jewish World Review August 23, 2000/ 22 Menachem-Av, 5760


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Those were the days, gramps -- WHERE WERE you in the summer of '72?

I clearly remember one balmy night, riding on the LIRR in from Huntington to Madison Square Garden. We'd come to see the Rolling Stones, featuring Stevie Wonder as the opening act, and my friends Elena Seibert, Dave Cicale and I were not even frisked for grass as we slammed through the turnstile.

The Stones might've been at their peak: Exile on Main Street, one of the band's three classic recordings, had just been released, and none of us had any idea that it would be the last start-to-finish Stones triumph.

Wonder was in top form as well, finally she dding the "Little" in front of his name, and riding the wave of critical acclaim for his first adult album, Music of My Mind, which included the spellbinding "Superwoman." (Not that the early 60s Wonder had anything to apologize for: could you believe the pipes on the kid who sang "Contract on Love" and "Uptight"?)

Mick and Keith, Altamont about 3500 bottles of Jack Daniel's behind them, just kicked ass on "Tumbling Dice," "Sweet Virginia," "Rocks Off" and "Soul Survivor," not to mention crowd favorites like "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Gimme Shelter" and "Midnight Rambler." The group would lapse into full-bore addiction, domestic squabbles and sheer laziness in the following years, but on that night in '72 the Stones truly were the only band that mattered.

The last time I saw them was at Shea Stadium in the autumn of '89, and it was fun: sitting with friends, drinking beer, chatting, with the rote greatest hits list providing sort of pleasant background noise. But they sure looked silly, with Mick prancing around the stage, Keith still flashing his skull ring and mugging it up with Ronnie Wood, both of them smoking while playing "Satisfaction" on autopilot, mentally counting the dough they'd net for another home in France, while the rapt boomer crowd and their children sang along with the lyrics. It was fairly pathetic.

You know what I'm getting at. It was a weird Democratic convention in Los Angeles last week, the first two days almost a disaster, with Bill Clinton giving a rousing-but instantly forgettable-speech on Monday night that once again was all about him and everything he's achieved since replacing that moron President Bush in 1993. Remember, it was Clinton who rescued the country from the GOP-induced depression, almost singlehandedly; it was Clinton who transformed Belfast from a religious war zone into a theme park; and it was also "The Man from Hope" who made the nation aware of hate crimes.


Oh, and he had a helper who was mentioned very briefly: Al Gore. Not that the Vice President's few important achievements were mentioned: his demolition of Ross Perot in a debate that was the turning point for the passage of NAFTA; his insistence in '96 that Clinton pass the bipartisan welfare reform act. That wouldn't play well to this group of quota-chosen delegates, a willy-nilly group of 60s burnouts, union hacks, rich Hollywood celebrities, environmental crazies and ancient FDR true believers.

Even the evenhanded David Broder, veteran reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, was appalled by Clinton's narcissistic speech. Broder wrote on Aug. 16: "To suggest that Republican economic plans might jeopardize the record prosperity of recent years, [Clinton] reached back implausibly to the 1960s. In a muddled passage about Vietnam, urban riots and assassinations-all of which happened on the Democrats' watch-he wound up suggesting that it was Richard Nixon's election in 1968 that killed what was then a record boom.

For those voters who recall that era, it was the inflation spawned by the spending on Great Society programs and the military buildup in Vietnam that was the culprit. And neither one had much to do with the issues of 2000... Like too much else in Clinton's presidency, this final speech was ultimately a self-indulgent essay on one subject: himself."

Hillary Clinton preceded her husband with a dull speech, the only result of which was to remind viewers once again how overrated her alleged intelligence is. Her New York Senate opponent Rick Lazio-who's hiding something smelly, I suspect, by not releasing his tax returns-is an arrogant, ambitious lightweight, but he'll defeat the co-president, if only because she's so loathsome to a majority of the state's voters.

But Tuesday night in L.A. was twisted, as Hunter Thompson might've said back in '72, when he, too, was at the peak of his writing prowess. (Who would've thought, all those years ago, when Thompson was bedeviling the mainstream press with his mind-searing prose about the McGovern campaign, that Rolling Stone would, 28 years later, fall into lockstep with a censorship-prone prude like Al Gore?)

All those English-toothed Kennedys ran around the Staples Center floor, appearing on cable tv interviews with fawning journalists, and a few of them even spoke from the podium. Rep. Patrick Kennedy was beyond the pale, championing the country's poor in his marble-mouthed diction, even as he has emerged as the Democratic Party's superstar fundraiser. He's no Bill Clinton in that function-the President selfishly siphoned off $10 million of Hollywood lucre for his library, when Gore and the party's congressional candidates could've used the dough more immediately-but croaky Patrick has the gift of bashing corporations when speaking to the press, and then pilfering their money behind closed doors. Grandpa Joe would be proud.

Bobby Kennedy Jr. enthusiastically praised Gore, claiming that the lifetime politician is the Earth's environmental savior, when Kennedy understands that that's not the truth. Kennedy went so far as to slam Ralph Nader in a New York Times op-ed column on Aug. 10, as dishonest a piece of work as I imagine his martyred father's namesake has produced in a long time. Kennedy knows better, but he's not allowed to stray from the family business, which means he has to support fraudulent Democrats, no matter what their positions are. I've always thought Bobby was the brightest of the third generation of Kennedys. He must have a hard time looking in the mirror each morning. He wrote that "Mr. Nader's candidacy could siphon votes from Al Gore, the environment's most visible champion since Theodore Roosevelt, and lead to the election of George W. Bush."

And further shilling for Gore, whose middle name is Hypocrisy, Kennedy said before the delegates that the Democratic nominee "will make history by validating our nation's legacy for world leadership and environmental responsibility."

Hey, Bobby, what's your opinion of Gore's financial stake in Occidental Petroleum and all the environmental atrocities the company allegedly carries out overseas? And if you really believe that Gore's nonsensical book Earth in the Balance is a plus for the (at least temporary) William Jennings Bryan/Harry Truman clone, then perhaps your own wattage is closer to cousin Patrick's than I'd imagined.

You're not allowed to say things like this in public, but surely you know that for ardent liberals, Nader is the only choice. Sure, a successful effort on his part will elect Bush; but it'll also destroy the muddled Democratic Party as we know it and force changes for the 2004 election.

Ms. Kennedy

And Caroline Kennedy, who to her credit is usually missing from these affairs, put on a brave front with a brief speech that recalled her father's nomination in L.A. 40 years ago and then introduced her Uncle Teddy. Caroline spouted some nonsense about the importance of public service-which was weird coming from this dignified and reclusive celebrity-but her main function was to let delegates get a good cry in and hum the theme to Camelot one more time. It was a little strange that she didn't mention her brother John's recent death, but the strategies for three-hanky moments, Democrat-style, are perhaps beyond my ken.

Kennedy said, in part: "Now, we are the New Frontier. And now, when many of us are doing so well, it is time once again to ask more of ourselves... We need a president who is not afraid of complexity [the standard dig at GWB], who believes in an open and tolerant society, and who knows that the world can be made new again-and that president is Al Gore."

Two points: Caroline Kennedy, like all the Kennedys, has always been doing "well." Second, I don't believe a majority of Americans want the world to be "made new again"; they're plenty happy with the way things are going. People just want an honest man in the White House who won't embarrass them.

It was also remarkable, looking at Caroline, how much she's aged. Unfortunately, at 42, she resembles a Kennedy more than she does her mother. Don't get me wrong, the hands of time aren't generally kind to anyone, and I'd put myself forefront in that category, but it was still like a cold shower to see sweet Caroline smack in the center of middle age, and-again-without the gorgeous mystery of the late Jackie.

Oh dear, I almost forgot. Also on that Tuesday night, relegated to the nostalgia portion of the show, Jesse Jackson delivered a tired, repetitive recitation to the assembled. He's simply not worth writing about anymore; this millionaire missionary long ago sacrificed any principles he might've had. It's certain that opportunism, from cradle to grave, is the bond that Jackson and Clinton share, rather than a genuine desire to lift up people less fortunate than themselves. It's no wonder that Gore actually lost ground in the polls after the first two nights, before receiving his expected, and sizable, bounce later in the week.

The clownish demagogue Jackson made typically irresponsible remarks about the Bush family in an effort to whip up the crowd-preaching to the converted, it wasn't hard-and perhaps relive his own long-forgotten flashes of rhetorical splendor.

Jackson: "Papa Bush is a nice man, a gentle man. But he chose Clarence Thomas. Baby Bush, the governor of Florida, is a charming man, a gentle man. But he dismantled affirmative action in Florida. George W. is an affable man, a friendly man. But he stood with Jefferson Davis and chose the Confederate flag over the American flag. He refused to offer leadership on hate-crimes legislation and wants to give the surplus back to the richest 20 percent to buy more yachts."

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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